Monday, August 31, 2015

The Potter's Lady - A Review

Published - August, 2015 Bethany House Publishers
Series - Refined by Love Book 2
Author - Judith Miller
Title - The Potter's Lady
Format - ebook, paper
Find on Amazon

When Rose McKay learns that the brickyard her brother assists in running is no longer an opportunity for her brother, she talks him into investing into a pottery business. As a recent graduate of the Philadelphia School of Design for Women, Rose believes that she can make and design pieces that will sell well. She reconnects with Joshua Harkness, a young man whose family owns a pottery. As the McKays begin their venture into pottery, the workers are reluctant to make changes. Rylan Campbell feels that the new owners, the McKays, are decent people, and that the workers should give them a chance. He just wishes that Rose wouldn't insist on making changes so drastically. The McKay Pottery should be gaining business but instead they are losing it, and Rylan begins to suspect that Joshua is behind it. When an elite hotel announces a design contest, Rose and Rylan jump at the chance to represent McKay Pottery and to hopefully turn the company's fortune around. As they work together, they are drawn to the other. But how can a future between them be possible? And will their fledgling attraction withstand the competition?

I didn't read book one in this series. I've got it at home. I've just not read it yet. Thankfully, this isn't one that needs to be read in order. I was easily drawn into the story. I actually think I read this in a matter of hours.

While the romance development between Rylan and Rose was not as rich as in other books I've read, their character development was well done. I enjoyed getting to know them through the pages of the book.

I also enjoyed learning about pottery. I never knew that there was so much that went into the making of pottery. I think that the design contest was my favorite part of the entire book.

I'm looking forward to the next in the series.

I received this book for free from Bethany House Publishers for the purpose of reviewing. My thoughts and opinions are my own.

Recommended to fans of Tracie Peterson, Judith Miller, Jody Hedlund, historical fiction

Rating - 4 stars

Thursday, August 27, 2015

The Truth According to Us - A Review

Published - January, 2015
Author - Annie Barrows
Title - The Truth According to Us
Format - ebook, audio, hardcover
Find on Amazon

Summary (From Goodreads):In the summer of 1938, Layla Beck’s father, a United States senator, cuts off her allowance and demands that she find employment on the Federal Writers’ Project, a New Deal jobs program. Within days, Layla finds herself far from her accustomed social whirl, assigned to cover the history of the remote mill town of Macedonia, West Virginia, and destined, in her opinion, to go completely mad with boredom. But once she secures a room in the home of the unconventional Romeyn family, she is drawn into their complex world and soon discovers that the truth of the town is entangled in the thorny past of the Romeyn dynasty.

At the Romeyn house, twelve-year-old Willa is desperate to learn everything in her quest to acquire her favorite virtues of ferocity and devotion—a search that leads her into a thicket of mysteries, including the questionable business that occupies her charismatic father and the reason her adored aunt Jottie remains unmarried. Layla’s arrival strikes a match to the family veneer, bringing to light buried secrets that will tell a new tale about the Romeyns. As Willa peels back the layers of her family’s past, and Layla delves deeper into town legend, everyone involved is transformed—and their personal histories completely rewritten.

My Thoughts:
It isn't often that I have to put down a book I'm reviewing. This one, for me, fell in that category. I tried. I really did try. The summary captured my attention. And I did find parts rather intriguing. But it wasn't enough for me. 

First, I was confused. I wasn't sure what character went where. While the confusion lessened as I went along, by the time I was at 64% done, I was still confused. I also found myself not being able to follow the plot very well. Sure I got the general idea - Layla's writing a book and all the characters have their own ideas of what the truth should be. 

Second, the chapters seemed to drag on. Literally. I expected to be further along after finishing the chapter (3 for example) than looking at my Kindle and seeing I was only at 5%. I'll admit that I didn't finish the book. I really couldn't take it anymore. It was long and drawn out. I'm not saying that I like short, quick reads. Because I don't. Not really. What I do enjoy is a book that moves along nicely and doesn't feel that it is struggling to make a point. I've read books with well over 1000 pages before and they didn't drag like this one.

Third, the characters. There are alternating point of views, and while I'm used to that, in this book it felt a little abrupt. I didn't like Felix at all. I found him to be too controlling. And Jottie. She's a grown woman. She could have stood up to her brother! I thought Layla was flakey. And Willa was probably the only one who truly intrigued me.

I very rarely will give a book one star. I also very rarely will not finish a book I've been asked to review. I checked the reviews on Amazon on this one. I'm in the minority here. But then again, this particular book really isn't for me. Others may love it. Some obviously do. But for me, I think I'll pass on it. 

I received this book for free via NetGalley for the purpose of reviewing. I wasn't required to like the book, only to give my honest opinion, which I have done.

Rating - 1 star

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Top Ten Tuesday - Top Ten Books I'd put on the syllabus for a Young Adult Fantasy Class

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature hosted by The Broke & the Bookish.

It's Tuesday. Today's topic is what are the top ten books I'd put on the syllabus for such and such class. For me, young adult fantasy is the easiest to come up with outside of Christian fiction. So I  get to figure out what books I'd put on a required reading list.

1. The Harry Potter Series by JK Rowling - These are a no brainer. The funny thing is that when I taught 3rd grade, I didn't actually encourage my students to read them. Maybe because I'd not read them myself at that time. But now, I'd put them on the reading list for students between grades 8-9.

2. The Chronicles of Narnia by CS Lewis - These books always come to mind when I think of YA fantasy. They are classics in my opinion. I love them. I've probably loved them from the time I was in 2nd grade.

3. The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flammel by Michael Scott - These books would make great reads for kids in 7th-9th grade. One of my HP friends introduced them to me and I have thoroughly enjoyed them.

4. Percy Jackson and the Olympians by Rick Riordan - Greek mythology retold. Seriously as much as I love the myths, this series makes them all the easier to understand.

5. The Heroes of Olympus by Rick Riordan - Greek AND Roman mythology. Percy's back and he's still having to save the world.

6. The Hobbit & the Lord of the Rings by JRR Tolkien - An epic fantasy world that for many has defined the fantasy genre. Excellent reads.

7. Elantris by Brandon Sanderson - I loved this book when I discovered it a few years ago. I think it'd make a great addition to the fantasy curriculum.

8. Daughter of the Forest by Juliet Marillier - Yes it is a retelling of a fairy tale. But as the first book in an epic fantasy saga of it's own, I think it'd be great to add it to a curriculum.

9. The Earthsea series by Ursula K. Le Guin - A series of books with wizards and magic set in a world of islands. I remember renting them from the library several years ago and enjoyed them.

10. Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine - A fantasy list isn't complete without me including this wonderful Cinderella retelling. I first read it when in college and it should be on ANY fantasy curriculum.

Friday, August 21, 2015

Counting on a Cowboy - A Review

Published - August 2015, Thomas Nelson
Series - Four of Hearts Ranch Romance Book 2
Author - Debra Clopton
Title - Counting on a Cowboy
Format - ebook, paper
Find on Amazon

Abby Knightly moves to the small town of Wishing Springs, Texas to start over. She's lost all that she holds dear and wants a chance to heal. When Abby meets Bo Monahan, she discovers that he could be a great friend. And at this point in her life, that's all she wants. Bo wants to do his part to save the family ranch while caring for his grandfather. He's not interested in seeing his little town become the new romantic destination or the women who flock there trying to catch his attention like he's Mr. Right. He certainly doesn't need the complications that come with a romantic relationship. When he first meets Abby, he's wary that she's like the other women who have flocked to his town. But as he gets to know her, he finds out she's not. Bo's thrown for a loop when the infant son he never knew about shows up on his doorstep. He knows even less about babies than he does about women. This confirmed bachelor needs help. Abby finds herself drawn to the baby and to his handsome daddy. As she helps him navigate being a parent, the two find themselves drawn to each other. Perhaps these two wounded hearts can find hope and love together.

Debra Clopton's books always make me giggle. This one was no exception. While it is book two in the series, it stands alone.

I love the way that Debra can create a town full of interesting characters. She's done that with her Mule Hollow series and she's done that again with this one. Even though the supporting cast may be more minor characters, they are delightful. I especially loved Pearl and Pops.

I really enjoyed getting to know Abby and Bo in this book. Getting a glimpse of Tru & Maggie from the previous book was fun too. I find that it is always fun to catch up with characters. I'm looking forward to the third book about Jarrod. These brothers have been fun to read about.

I received this book for free from BookLook Bloggers for the purpose of reviewing. My thoughts and opinions are my own.

Recommended to fans of Janice Thompson, Love Inspired, Debra Clopton, romantic comedy

Rating - 4 stars

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Through Waters Deep - A Review

Published - August 2015, Revell Books
Series - Waves of Freedom Book 1
Author - Sarah Sundin
Title - Through Waters Deep
Format - ebook, paper
Find on Amazon

With the nation teetering on the brink of war, a sailor and a secretary renew an old acquaintance and work together to stop sabotage. Mary Stirling is good at her job. She's a secretary in Boston's Navy Yard. She tries hard not to draw attention herself, but she's concerned about the little things. That's what makes her such a great secretary. Ensign Jim Avery has been assigned to the USS Atwood. When he happens to run into Mary on the Boston docks, he's delighted to renew their high school acquaintance. Mary's changed since high school. While she's still quiet and reserved, she's not the girl she was then. Jim finds himself drawn to the pretty, quiet woman she is now. Jim's changed too. He's a Navy officer and is determined to be the best that he can. When suspicious accidents begin occurring at the Navy Yard, both Jim and Mary begin to investigate. Especially once a bomb is discovered on board the USS Atwood. But tensions are running high. And it appears that the country is heading on a fast track into the war. With Jim at sea and Mary on the shore, how can they stop who ever is causing the damage before something else happens? Will boldness be the answer for this pair who is afraid to speak what is in their hearts? Or will they allow circumstances keep them from discovering the love that is blossoming?

I've read most of Sarah Sundin's books and I was delighted when I say she was starting a new series. This time she's writing about the Navy and the cover alone on this book had me hooked. And I hadn't even opened it up yet! This one has been on my radar since last summer and is one of my top three highly anticipated books of the year. (The others being Rachel Hauck's How to Catch a Prince and Robin Jones Gunn's One More Wish).

I've discovered that I like books set in WWII. Really like them. While this one starts in the months prior to the US actually entering the war, the action starts immediately. One thing I absolutely loved about this book was that it's a bit different than Sarah's usual. This one has all the elements of a mystery to it. Maybe it's because the heroine is a huge Nancy Drew fan. I don't know. But that difference made me love it.

There were so many times that I wanted to shake both Jim and Mary! It wasn't that they didn't communicate, they did, just not about their feelings. It was more along the lines of both of them expecting the other to act just like he/she did in high school when they have both grown up and matured. I wanted Mary to fight for what she wanted and to be persistent like she was with her sleuthing. And Jim! I wanted him to realize that he needed to let her know his feelings. One thing I did love though was that both of them learned some hard lessons. Mary learned how to step into the limelight and to use her gifts. Jim learned that sometimes being bold and making a harsh decision was the right thing to do. I'm trying not to give to much away here, but I loved that part of the book.

When this one ended, it left me longing for the next book in the series. Because it'll be about Jim's sister Lillian and his buddy Arch. I'm excited to read their story because I developed a soft spot for Arch in this book and I can't wait to see how his story is fleshed out.

I received this book for free from Revell Books for the purpose of reviewing. My thoughts and opinions are my own.

Recommended to fans of Jody Hedlund, Sarah Sundin, Laura Frantz, Julie Lessman, WWII, Cathy Gohlke, Kate Breslin

Rating - 5 stars

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

One More Wish - A Review

Published - August 2015, Robin's Nest Productions
Series - Christy and Todd: The Married Years Book 3
Author - Robin Jones Gunn
Title - One More Wish
Format - ebook, paper
Find on Amazon Robin's Website

As Christy makes her 26th birthday wish and blows out the candles, what will she wish for? Will she and Todd finally have a baby this year? With all of her close friends announcing pregnancies, Christy isn't sure. When she and Todd have a heart to heart talk returning from Sierra's wedding, Christy learns that her husband would be open to adoption. As the months pass by, both Christy and Todd learn so very important lessons about each other, their relationships with God, and of course what is really important. 

I don't think there is a single one of Robin's books I've not enjoyed. This one has been one of my most anticipated books of the year. Christy is one of my Forever Friends. 

I loved catching up with Sierra and Katie. I also loved how both Todd and Christy are using their gifts in ministry. Maybe not the way that they had planned on it, but certainly the way that is best. 

I'm really hoping that there will be at least one more book, because the ending has me begging for more!

I read this book for pure pleasure.

Recommended to fans of Robin Jones Gunn, Christy Miller, Jenny B Jones

Rating - 5 stars

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Top Ten Tuesday - Top Ten Authors on My Auto-Buy List

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature hosted by The Broke & the Bookish

Welcome to another edition of Top Ten Tuesday.

Today's topic is about the authors whose books are always an automatic buy for me. If I can review their book great, if not, I'll buy it anyway. Here they are.

Christian Fiction:
1. Robin Jones Gunn - I mean seriously. Those of you who have followed my blog for a while know this one. She is my favorite author. Period. I just got in her newest and I'm already finished.
2. Julie Lessman - Another one I will buy whatever she writes. She could probably sell me a copy of a phone book and I'd buy it.
3. Karen Witemeyer - If I can't obtain a copy of her books to review, I buy them. Sometimes several copies.
4. Jody Hedlund - A lot of times, I am asked to help influence her books. But when I'm not, I buy it. Which reminds me, I need to see if I can pre-order her next Young Adult book.
5. Mary Connealy - If I don't buy it, my cousin or my mom will, and I still get to read them. But this is a pretty much auto-buy for me.
6. Sarah Sundin - I've fallen in love with her books. I think that I have all of her first series. Maybe on my Kindle if not the paper backs.
7. Susan May Warren - Family drama. Yes please! I seriously can't wait to read the conclusion to the Christiansen family books.
8. Laura Jackson - Hey, she's my friend. I will happily buy the books she writes because I know that it is helping her out. Plus she's really good. I mean, how many authors can take the one character that EVERYONE hated and manage to redeem her? Not many I've found. Young Adult Christian Fiction.

Secular Fiction (Young Adult, Romance, etc):
9. Rick Riordan - As long as he keeps writing about mythology, I will happily give my money to his books. Percy Jackson and the Heroes of Olympus series are some of my all time favorites.
10. Rose Gordon - Historical romances that actually have a plot and a sense of humor. I discovered her a few years ago and order her books on my Kindle as soon as I know that they are available to pre-order.

Monday, August 17, 2015

August Quarterly Giveaway

Yes I know. This post SHOULD have been up in July. But I didn't get to it. So instead it's up NOW.

Today, I'm giving away a copy of Jody Hedlund's newest book, Hearts Made Whole. This is an absolutely fabulous book and while I rated it 4 stars (really it's 4.5 stars for me), I did love it. I'm also excited about it because Ryan Chambers will be featured over at Fiction Hero Features soon. Either this month or in September. I'm still figuring out the details of that with the girls over there.

Anyway, details for the giveaway are in the box below. Any entries not following the rules will be disqualified.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Saturday Scribbles Vol 26

Why is it that I have a tendency of forgetting that God is God and will show up to awesome things? That's a question I've been pondering lately. You see my heart knows that to be true. It's my head that has a hard time remembering that.

There really is a reason behind my questioning this week. Last Thursday evening, I was on my way to my best friend's house when my car hesitated, pretty much stalled out on me, and felt really sluggish. So later that evening, we managed to get it to the mechanic. I called them the next day to tell them what had happened. My mechanic has seen every vehicle my family owns, sometimes multiple times, over the last ten years or so. Anyway, he couldn't find anything wrong with my car. So I go and pick it up, then go to the bank, then stop for gas. Then my battery dies. My brother was able to meet me and jumpstart my car. He then followed me to AutoZone for a battery. Once it was replaced, I went about the rest of my day. I had no problems driving my car for the rest of Friday, all day Saturday, all day Sunday, or even to or from work on Monday.

Then as I was leaving a customer's house after a product delivery, the car started doing the exact same thing it had done on Thursday. Only this time, the oil light came on. I was close to a Walmart, so I managed to get it there. For an oil change. Only once there, the guys couldn't start it. Then when they  did get it started, it was shaking and trying to go backwards or not accelerating at all. Needless to say, I called AAA. My mechanic had told me on Friday that if it acted up again to take it directly to the dealership. I'm a little hard of hearing at times. I should have listened. Triple A comes and gets me, and we get the car towed to the Ford dealership near me. The tow truck driver had to shift the car into neutral in order to get it started at all. I'd already called Ford and told them the problems. The gentleman I spoke with instructed me to put everything to his attention. I pretty much was fighting tears at this point. Because I was feeling rather helpless. Mom comes and picks me up at the dealership. She loaned me her truck for a few days.

I get a call from the dealership on Tuesday saying that they've moved it into one of the garage bays. Shortly after that, I received an email from Mom. She told me to read 2 Samuel 22. She'd been praying that God would take care of it. So was I for that matter. But still. It's so hard to let go and completely trust. When I had a chance, I read 2 Samuel 22. I've pasted it here.

2 Samuel 22New International Version (NIV)

David’s Song of Praise

22 David sang to the Lord the words of this song when the Lord delivered him from the hand of all his enemies and from the hand of Saul. He said:
“The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer;
    my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge,
    my shield[a] and the horn[b] of my salvation.
He is my stronghold, my refuge and my savior—
    from violent people you save me.
“I called to the Lord, who is worthy of praise,
    and have been saved from my enemies.
The waves of death swirled about me;
    the torrents of destruction overwhelmed me.
The cords of the grave coiled around me;
    the snares of death confronted me.
“In my distress I called to the Lord;
    I called out to my God.
From his temple he heard my voice;
    my cry came to his ears.
The earth trembled and quaked,
    the foundations of the heavens[c] shook;
    they trembled because he was angry.
Smoke rose from his nostrils;
    consuming fire came from his mouth,
    burning coals blazed out of it.
He parted the heavens and came down;
    dark clouds were under his feet.
He mounted the cherubim and flew;
    he soared[d] on the wings of the wind.
He made darkness his canopy around him—
    the dark[e] rain clouds of the sky.
Out of the brightness of his presence
    bolts of lightning blazed forth.
The Lord thundered from heaven;
    the voice of the Most High resounded.
He shot his arrows and scattered the enemy,
    with great bolts of lightning he routed them.
The valleys of the sea were exposed
    and the foundations of the earth laid bare
at the rebuke of the Lord,
    at the blast of breath from his nostrils.
“He reached down from on high and took hold of me;
    he drew me out of deep waters.
He rescued me from my powerful enemy,
    from my foes, who were too strong for me.
They confronted me in the day of my disaster,
    but the Lord was my support.
He brought me out into a spacious place;
    he rescued me because he delighted in me.
“The Lord has dealt with me according to my righteousness;
    according to the cleanness of my hands he has rewarded me.
For I have kept the ways of the Lord;
    I am not guilty of turning from my God.
All his laws are before me;
    I have not turned away from his decrees.
I have been blameless before him
    and have kept myself from sin.
The Lord has rewarded me according to my righteousness,
    according to my cleanness[f] in his sight.
“To the faithful you show yourself faithful,
    to the blameless you show yourself blameless,
to the pure you show yourself pure,
    but to the devious you show yourself shrewd.
You save the humble,
    but your eyes are on the haughty to bring them low.
You, Lord, are my lamp;
    the Lord turns my darkness into light.
With your help I can advance against a troop[g];
    with my God I can scale a wall.
“As for God, his way is perfect:
    The Lord’s word is flawless;
    he shields all who take refuge in him.
For who is God besides the Lord?
    And who is the Rock except our God?
It is God who arms me with strength[h]
    and keeps my way secure.
He makes my feet like the feet of a deer;
    he causes me to stand on the heights.
He trains my hands for battle;
    my arms can bend a bow of bronze.
You make your saving help my shield;
    your help has made[i] me great.
You provide a broad path for my feet,
    so that my ankles do not give way.
“I pursued my enemies and crushed them;
    I did not turn back till they were destroyed.
I crushed them completely, and they could not rise;
    they fell beneath my feet.
You armed me with strength for battle;
    you humbled my adversaries before me.
You made my enemies turn their backs in flight,
    and I destroyed my foes.
They cried for help, but there was no one to save them—
    to the Lord, but he did not answer.
I beat them as fine as the dust of the earth;
    I pounded and trampled them like mud in the streets.
“You have delivered me from the attacks of the peoples;
    you have preserved me as the head of nations.
People I did not know now serve me,
    foreigners cower before me;
    as soon as they hear of me, they obey me.
They all lose heart;
    they come trembling[j] from their strongholds.
“The Lord lives! Praise be to my Rock!
    Exalted be my God, the Rock, my Savior!
He is the God who avenges me,
    who puts the nations under me,
    who sets me free from my enemies.
You exalted me above my foes;
    from a violent man you rescued me.
Therefore I will praise you, Lord, among the nations;
    I will sing the praises of your name.
“He gives his king great victories;
    he shows unfailing kindness to his anointed,
    to David and his descendants forever.”

Why did Mom ask me to read this passage? Because it talks about trusting in the Lord. And that was something I certainly needed to learn this week. I realize that I may not have the physical enemies that David had. But I KNOW I have spiritual ones.

So Tuesday and Wednesday went by. I'm driving mom's truck to work. She is driving the Saturn. I was teaching a PowerPoint class on Thursday, and I'd just dismissed my students for lunch when the dealership called.

The same service technician I spoke with on Monday called to tell me that he had good news. My transmission control module was shot. My thought was how is that good news? He then went on to explain that it was covered under a warranty that I didn't know I had. The car was repaired and ready for me to pick up. And the cost - absolutely nothing! I felt the tears come to my eyes again. Tears this time of joy. Because I'd just had another lesson that when I sit back and allow God to do something, He responds in a way that leaves no doubt that it could be anything else but Him. I called Mom. Told her the news. Then emailed my Small Group.

When we arrived at the dealership after I got off of work, I also found out that this particular repair was also part of a recall. I said that I'd not gotten anything from Ford yet about this, and he told me it was a recent one - within the last few weeks. He also said I'd probably get a letter, but the problem has already been repaired.

So I learned (once again) that God's got this. I just have to remember to trust Him. I can promise you that this will be a lesson that I will need to learn over and over again. I'm a little hard headed and it takes a bit for things to sink through at times.

One of the biggest things about this whole situation is that I was in Dallas at the end of July. God knew all of this was going to happen. And if we had been driving my car instead of a sister consultant's car, then there was a VERY good chance that one the battery would have died and that two the transmission problem would have occurred either in Dallas or somewhere between Houston and Dallas.

But one thing I learned at my conference was Grace. We have been given grace, and so we need to show grace. And while I can see that this will be a learning curve for me, because I know I'm still learning. I'm one of those people who have to learn SOME things several times before it sinks in. I am working hard on remembering that I can trust God to be God and for me not to worry. Because after all, Jesus tells us not to worry about tomorrow. Yet I do anyway.

Maybe I need to commit 2 Samuel 22 to memory. I think that may help.